Hôpital Temporaire d'Arc-en-Barrois

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Château d'Arc-en-Barrois

Hôpital Temporaire d'Arc-en-Barrois was an emergency evacuation hospital serving the French 3rd Army Corps during World War I.[1] It was organised and staffed by British volunteers and served French soldiers.


Hôpital Temporaire d’Arc-en-Barrois was a voluntary civilian British hospital unit established in the Château d'Arc-en-Barrois, Haute-Marne, France, for the aid of wounded French soldiers in the Great War. Founded in January 1915 under approval of the Anglo-French Hospital Committee of the British Red Cross Society, London, the hospital of 110 beds was conducted under military command of the French army's Service de Santé. The hospital's first military casualties arrived on 27 January 1915 from the Argonne Forest battlefront. In February 1915 the regional Service de Santé requested an expansion of hospital services and a convalescent hospital was established in the vacant village hospice building, bringing the total number of beds to 180.

Located sixty miles or more to the rear of the war's entrenched front lines, Hôpital Temporaire received casualties from battles in the Argonne Forest and Champagne Offensive (1915), Verdun (1916) and the Meuse-Argonne Campaign (1918). Throughout the war wounded soldiers arrived in Haute-Marne via hospital train through Latrecey-Ormoy-sur-Aube, a remote station located 11 miles from Arc-en-Barrois, and were transported to the château aboard Hôpital Temporaire's small motor ambulance fleet. Wounded and sick soldiers were attended in hospital by a staff of female trained nurses, a small contingent of surgeons and medical students and female auxiliary hospital staff provided by the British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.). Male volunteers authorized by the British Red Cross typically served as hospital orderlies and ambulance drivers. The hospital maintained numerous essential services—operating theatre, anesthesia, radiography, dentistry, apothecary and clinical laboratory--was financially supported by a large international donor base and supplied regularly by voluntary British war supply depots.

In continuous service until its official demobilization in February 1919, the hospital received a total of 3071 patients; 76 deaths were recorded. More than 400 voluntary and contracted staff served at Hôpital Temporaire, representing the United Kingdom, Canada and Newfoundland, Australia, USA and Denmark. [2]

Hôpital Temporaire d'Arc-en-Barrois, 1915

The Hospital's founding: 1914[edit]

In the autumn of 1914 four English sisters, Madeline and Susan Bromley-Martin, Eleanor Martin-Holland and Anora Russell, natives of Worcestershire, heard alarming news from France of the French military's catastrophic shortage of military hospital beds and trained nurses. As were many British civilians eager to supply their French ally with medical supplies and hospital staff, the Bromley-Martin sisters joined the early rush to offer humanitarian aid and skilled personnel. Madeline devised a hospital plan as family and friends gathered financial supporters, collected supplies, recruited hospital volunteers and secured a staff of trained nurses and surgeons.

British Red Cross and War Office officials made wary of inexpert civilian interference in international military medical affairs, had enacted in late 1914 policies deterring the transfer of voluntary hospitals to France. The Bromley-Martin proposal, however, gained the personal support of Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald and the Hon. Arthur Stanley, M.P., overseers of the powerful British Red Cross Joint War Committee and its temporary Anglo-French Hospital Sub-Committee. The hospital project gained approval in November. Next, French military authorization had to be obtained for a hospital building and for permits granting the British hospital personnel's entry into France. Lacking more suitable alternatives in proximity to the French coastline, the Bromley-Martin hospital slated its installation for an empty château in rural eastern France. In December the building, the hospital proposal and the British staff were approved for service by French Minister of War Alexandre Millerand and Service de Santé chief, Dr Ange François Troussaint.


Hôpital Temporaire's voluntary hospital personnel included a significant number of writers, poets, artists and illustrators. Kathleen Scott, the Rodin-trained sculptress and widow of the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, organized and led the hospital's small auto ambulance service in early 1915. Henry Tonks, painter, Slade Art School Professor and trained physician was among the hospital's founding staff. Tonks served between January and April 1915 as hospital anaesthetist and ward physician. John Masefield, Britain's future Poet Laureate, served a six-week term as a volunteer orderly during the spring of 1915.[3] The English poet Laurence Binyon,[4] volunteered as a hospital orderly during 1915 and 1916. His ward experiences among wounded French soldiers inspired his poems, "Fetching the Wounded", "The Distant Guns", "Men of Verdun", and "La Patrie".[5] The English Impressionist painter, Wilfrid de Glehn and his American-born wife, artist Jane Emmet de Glehn, were among Hôpital Temporaire's first volunteers;[6] Wilfrid served as hospital orderly, military interpreter and ambulance driver; Jane supervised laundry and tea service and sketched soldiers' portraits for the benefit of a limb prosthetics fund. British architect Edmund Fisher, son of historian Herbert William Fisher worked as an orderly in 1915, helping with X-ray work. Other notable artists were children's book illustrator Frank Adams; painter William Radford Dakin, a former obstetrician and physician; and lithographer Arthur Cadogan Blunt.

Hôpital Temporaire's noteworthy voluntary orderlies and auxiliary hospital workers: 1915–1918
Susan Strong, mezzo-soprano of the New York Metropolitan Opera and London Opera
Robert Charles Phillimore, son of Lord Justice, Sir Walter Phillimore
Wilson Crewdson, author and curator of Japanese Art, British Museum
Emily Georgiana Kemp, author, painter, Asia explorer
John Ronald Moreton Macdonald of Largie[disambiguation needed], historian and Scottish laird
The Honorable Dorothy Emmott, daughter of Lord and Lady Alfred Emmott
The Honorable Gertrude Forbes-Sempill, daughter of William Forbes-Sempill, 17th Lord Sempill
Lady Lillian (née FitzRoy) Robertson, daughter of Alfred FitzRoy, 8th Duke of Grafton
Lady Elizabeth Keppel, daughter of Arnold Allan Cecil Keppel, 8th Earl of Albemarle
Robert Gerard Wallop, son of Isaac Newton Wallop, 5th Earl of Portsmouth
Gerard Vernon Wallop, son of Oliver Henry Wallop, 8th Earl of Portsmouth, (later, 9th Earl of Portsmouth)
Henry Michael Gordon Clark, son of H H Gordon Clark of Mickleham Hall, Surrey, and Matthew Clark & Sons, wine and spirit importers (later chairman of the firm)


  1. ^ Laurence Binyon, For Dauntless France (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1917)
  2. ^ The Hospital of Arc en Barrois, Haute Marne, France. Being a brief record of British Work for the French Wounded(Privately printed by the subscribers, London: 1915)
  3. ^ John Masefield's Letters from the Front, 1915-17ed., Peter Vansittart (New York: Franklin Watts, 1985)
  4. ^ John Hatcher, Laurence Binyon: Poet, Scholar of East and West, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995)
  5. ^ Laurence Binyon, The Four Years: War Poems collected and newly augmented (London: Elkin Mathews, 1919)
  6. ^ Laura Whortley, Wilfrid de Glehn, RA: John Singer Sargent's Painting Companion(UK: The Studio Fine Art Publications)

Coordinates: 47°56′51″N 5°00′25″E / 47.94750°N 5.00694°E / 47.94750; 5.00694